It was marvelous. It was the size of a yacht, it could float, it was covered in guns, and best of all—it had plenty of leg room. Calvin had spent the better part of the morning examining the troop transport he had captured. Granted, the interior was wrecked. His hostile takeover ended with more damage to the ship than to him or either of it's former crewmembers. Not a problem, as Marcus would likely be around later, Vilgerthr in tow, to fix it. For now, Calvin contented himself with scoping out a place for his stuff. Conquerers rights means first dibs, and sooner or later, he would find where they hid the cupholders.
Edward was off in pursuit of getting a flag made. It'd probably be some gaudy thing, likely referencing some anime that Ed was enamored with, but what the hell. Having a banner to wave just to proclaim how awesome we were was an idea that Calvin could get behind. Besides, it seemed to work for Conehead, and Cal would be lying if he said that he didn't take a little bit of pleasure in cheesing him off by one-upping him. Again. And Again. It never got old.
In Calvin's opinion, the biggest shame in owning the transport ship was that the world lacked the right kind of paint to really customize it. How cool would it be to have a troop transport with flames painted on the side? Or to have a Firebird emblem sprayed across the nose? One thing he would have to look into is getting Ayna to show him the script for 'Winnebago' so he could carve it across the stern.
And speaking of the beautiful women in Calvin's life, the Flower of Virava—with a little help from Donovan—had graced them with her presence once again. Watching Conan's face melt during that heartwarming reunion was priceless. Calvin had to admit, though, his heart-rate did jump about a thousand beats per minute once he saw her face for the first time in weeks... or was it months? Before his brain could begin to contemplate the ontological ramifications of being a time-manipulating being, Calvin saw the warrior woman herself walking towards him and his bitchin' new ride.
* * * * *
Once, when she had been very young, perhaps no more than a hundred seasons or so, Captain Jiranee Jenvirava had traveled the Trade Road from Virava to the port city of Merikano, which lay on the shores of the Great Ocean. She had seen many ships there, long narrow galleys of wood with rakishly-set masts and lateen-rigged sails. The vessel resting on the ground before her reminded her of just such a ship, with its pale gray hull, sloping sides, curiously-formed upper deck, and small ballista set at the nose and sides (she suspected they were the same sort of guns as Master Marcus had used back in Virava.)
A panel was pulled down on one side of the ship, forming an access ramp. An ingenious feat of workmanship that. And sitting with his back to the bulwark, whittling on a piece of wood was…
“Master Calvin? Permission to come aboard?”
The young artist stood to greet the Captain. "Of course, m'lady!" He gave a bow and doffed his hat, a wide brimmed felt thing he acquired somewhere between Fyrkat and Ashkam. "Well if you aren't a sight for sore eyes. How have you been?"
Her boots ringing on the bio-plastic panels of the gangplank the tall elf smiled, causing Calvin’s heart to soar. “Busy. This last season has seen many changes in Virava. My own estate has undergone many repairs and the king’s castle now has new gates. New laws have been enacted and old ones abolished. Thanks to you and your friends, slavery is no more, taxes are lighter, and the streets flow with commerce. Virava is no more a city of sadness and woe.”
Setting down with her back to the bulwark, Jiranee continued. “But not all is joyful. It was with deep regret and sadness I buried Amal and Lata, who had been loyal and worthy men-at-arms. We keep an eye on the former ministers as well, as there is the fear they will ferment further trouble.”
Calvin sat across from the Captain. He let that all sink in before he responded. "That is sad. They will be missed. But it's good to hear that the kingdom is looking to be on the up and up." He smiled a little bit before continuing. "How's Jonathan? Keeping his fuzzy ass out of trouble?"
“Not as much as I would wish.” Jiranee shrugged, which always did interesting things to her torso (which is why Calvin felt she should shrug more often.) “He does well with numbers and I know far more than I think I wish about where my rents come from and where my money goes. Still, he seems happy. He has a purpose, I keep him fed, and clothed, and housed, and Parvin and Taban keep him entertained.”
Ah, the twins. Not that they were related, they just looked almost exactly the same. Calvin knew precisely the type of 'entertaining' they provided. Suddenly reminded of what he had been up to with them, he simply shook his head. "Yeah, Jonathan can be handful. Just like some other rapscallion I know." He gave her his best mock innocent face. She didn’t look like she bought it.
"Well, things have been pretty good for us, since we left. The jungle was as hot as one would imagine. We managed to convince some forest people to stop sacrificing their people to their Gods, which we found out weren't really gods. Turns out they were feeding people to some wildlife that looked amazingly like... well… uh... let's just say they were kinda prickish."
Jiranee gave him one of those looks that made him think of Mister Spock. “An interesting use of words, Master Calvin.” Oops, he knew he was in trouble now. She’d called him ‘master.’ “My own trip through the Jungle was exceedingly unpleasant as well. Oppressive heat, tiny crawling things everywhere, spiders, and centipedes as long as my arm. I think I prefer Master Donavan's way of travel.”
"No doubt in my mind. If we were all flying around, we definitely wouldn't have run across those ginormous lizard things. One of 'em almost ate Ed." Calvin started to laugh, barely containing himself. "I shouldn't laugh at that, but you should have seen it. The giant lizard snatched him up really quick, and his legs were dangling out of it's mouth. It was horrible at the time, but it looked like it had a couple of noodles danging between its teeth." He wiggled two of his fingers, to get the point across. "It was just funny to look at it."
“You have a strange sense of humor.” She smiled anyway.
"Bah. I knew he wasn't goin' anywhere. Ed wouldn't let a little thing like being swallowed whole by a giant handbag slow him down," Calvin chuckled, then reached into his bag and produced a glass bottle with crimson liquid in it. "Almost forgot. I thought you might like this. I won it in a game of chance from one of Conan's soldiers. It's quite tasty, and he said it's also quite rare." Calvin handed the wine bottle to Jiranee. "He got it from some place I can't pronounce properly."
“Thank you.” Jiranee tipped the bottle towards Calvin. “Do you want to open this now? Wine from the Plains is always to be savored and best drunk among friends.”
"I'll not turn down a drink with such fine company." Reaching back into his apparently bottomless bag of stuff, he withdrew the drinking horn that Herger had gifted him with way back in Fyrkat. "Sadly, I do not have proper wine glasses, but I think we can make do. So, what shall we toast to?"
“Victory.” Jiranee stated without hesitation. “For from what you said, we go to challenge the lords of the world.”
"Hah! I'll drink to that!" He handed her the ornate drinking horn and went scrounging through his stuff for a tin cup one of Conan's scouts had lost to him at cards. It was either the cup or the man was going to have to bet his pants, and no one wanted that.
Raising the horn up to tap against Calvin’s cup, Jiranee thought for a moment. “Sit to bread and meat with joy and drink your wine with a merry heart.” A moment later she gave a small sigh of pleasure. “This is excellent wine indeed. If I knew its name I’d look for it in the markets.”
It was definitely better than Calvin had thought it would be. He'd have to find that guy again and teach him how to play some other card games he'd never be able to win. Setting up another round, he took a seat next to Jiranee. Even sitting down, she towered over him. "One of the best parts of all this traveling has to be all the food and drink I've gotten to sample, I think. Never got to do much of that back home."
“Oh?” Jiranee say back and regarded the bright blue of the sky. “Tell me about what meat and drink you have partaken. And what sights you have seen and the people you have met.” She nudged him with one elbow as she drank more wine. “And who else you have charmed with your wit and wiles.”
Calvin could feel the blood rushing to his face. It's the wine. Yeah. It's totally the wine. "Well… ahem… uh…. Back in Fyrkat they had some very nice mead. Which was much sweeter than the palm wine they had in that village in the jungle. It's, uh... it was also the first time I had roast monkey."
Feeling incredibly nervous for some reason, he swallowed. He figured it was probably his pride, but who could tell at this point? "As far as being charming... well, here." He reached back into his bag and pulled out his now infamous 'little black book', the massive black leather bound tome he drew each of his conquests in. He handed the book to the elf and took a deep breath.
Taking a drink from the long horn, Jiranee opened the sketchbook and nearly choked on her wine. Holding the book at arm’s length she coughed and sputtered for a moment before giving Calvin an apologetic look. “Sorry, I should have known better.” Setting the horn down (and wiping her mouth on the sleeve of her arming jacket) she returned to flipping through the pages.
There was something about Calvin’s art Captain Jiranee found fascinating, despite the subject matter. Unlike the illuminators she knew, he made his figures seem real, almost alive even. They had... she struggled for the word... depth! Yes, that was it. The drawings he made seemed to retreat into the paper, as if she was looking into a window and not a flat surface. In fact, she....
Jiranee held the sketch book up and turned it from side to side. In all her seasons she’d never seen anyone who looked like that. Raising an eyebrow, she leaned over toward Calvin. “Is that for real?” she asked.
Calvin looked at the image in question. "Is she for real? Yes. All of them are. I met them all during our travels here, well, except for the one on the first page. She's from back home. I got to know them all, well at least for a night or two, and they are all very nice and interesting people. Except for the one on the first page." He sat back and sipped some more wine. "She's a bit of a pain."
Oh God. That's it Cal. You've just handed a classy woman nude pictures of every girl you've ever slept with. You're screwed. Great choice of words there, buddy, 'cause that's not gonna happen now. His intermittent time stopping gave him some time to think but he was coming up short on ideas. There wasn't really any better way of going about this, it seemed. Dammit Cal. What the hell are you freaking out for? Just say something, dammit.
“Hmmm…” Jiranee muttered noncommittally. She took another drink and thought for a moment. “Am I ‘interesting’? Or am I a ‘pain’?”
If that ain't the grandaddy of loaded questions. Calvin took a moment before answering. Tall. Intelligent. Thoughtful. And the fact that she could kick the everliving shit out of him only occasionally crossed his mind. And if she wasn't interesting, she wouldn't be on three pages in there. Back to reality. "Captain, you're probably the most interesting person I've met. Next to Jarl Thorkell's daughter Aldis, I guess, but she had some really weird ideas of how to have a good time."
"Do I want to know?"
“Hmmm…” The Captain glanced back at the sketchbook and looked thoughtful. She turned a few more pages then abruptly put the book down. Standing she finished off the last of the wine in the drinking horn. “Come, Master Calvin,” she said, holding out her hand, “let us go somewhere and find out how interesting I am.”
Calvin's turn to nearly choke on his wine. He hadn't felt this inept since he stepped off the ruins of the plane, yet things were still working out. Draining his own cup, he stood and took the offered hand and followed his lady's lead. That was rather unexpected, for once.
* * * * *
Sometime later, in the shade of a tree that conveniently hid them from view, Calvin stared up at the overhanging branches while Jiranee slept, one arm over his chest and wearing nothing but a blanket and a contented smile. What the hell just happened? In his many months of documenting the many rare 'flowers' that appeared in this place, Calvin had never been that worried about impressing a female. Where did this new emotional state come from? No. No way. No chance in hell. Am I...? Could this be...? Oh God. The 'L' word. He looked around for where his clothes had gone off to. The scent of Jiranee's hair filled his senses as it brushed his nose. His pulse quickened. Yup. No doubt about it. I have no pants and I must scream.
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